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How an Adolescent Partial Hospitalization Program Works

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A Partial Hospitalization Program for teens is a type of mental health treatment. Teens in an adolescent Partial Hospitalization Program, or PHP program,  live at home. And they receive treatment during the day in a psychiatric hospital, the psychiatric unit of a hospital, a teen mental hospital, or a similar mental health setting.

Hence, they are in treatment for six or more hours a day, every day or most days of the week. Then they return home in the evenings. As a result, PHP programs are sometimes referred to as Day Programs, Day Treatment Programs, or partial inpatient treatment.

What Is an Adolescent Partial Hospitalization Program?

Partial hospitalization is a nonresidential treatment program. Moreover, a youth Partial Hospitalization Program provides diagnostic and treatment services similar to an inpatient program.

According to the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), Partial Hospitalization Programs for mental health feature the following resources:

  • Medically supervised programs
  • Comprehensive and structured clinical services
  • Face-to-face therapeutic sessions organized at various levels of intensity and frequency
  • Available at least five days per week
  • May also offer half-day, weekend, or evening hours.

Furthermore, an adolescent Partial Hospitalization Program may be freestanding or part of a broader system or program. However, it is identifiable as a distinct and separately organized unit.

Newport Academy Treatment Resources: adolescent partial hospitalization program

Who Do Partial Hospitalization Programs Serve?

Partial hospitalization programs for teens are designed for adolescents who are experiencing increased symptoms or disturbances in behavior. Or they might be struggling with other conditions that negatively impact their mental or behavioral health.

However, some issues require inpatient or residential care. Thus, it’s important that a PHP is able to safely serve the teen’s needs. Therefore, an adolescent Partial Hospitalization Program is not appropriate for teens who pose an immediate risk to themselves or others.

Hence, PHP program services include a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation. In addition, they focus on preventing relapse, hospitalization, or incarceration. Such a program functions as

  • An alternative to inpatient care
  • Transitional care following an inpatient stay
  • Follow-up after residential treatment.

The Difference Between Intensive Outpatient, Inpatient, and Partial Hospitalization Programs

In terms of level of treatment, partial hospitalization is a step below inpatient hospitalization. But it is more intense than conventional outpatient care.

Teens are referred to partial hospital programs when they are experiencing acute psychiatric symptoms. While such symptoms may be difficult to manage, they do not require 24-hour care. However, teens in adolescent Partial Hospitalization Programs attend structured programming throughout the day. Furthermore, many inpatient hospitalization rules apply in PHP treatment. For example, teens may be required to leave their phones at home or to wear shoes without shoelaces.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment is designed to help teens transitioning from residential treatment continue their recovery in a structured and secure environment. Thus, teen Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) are similar to PHPs. But clients attend for fewer hours—three to four hours a day, several days a week.

Newport Academy Treatment Resources: adolescent partial hospitalization program

Read “Types of Teen Mental Health Treatment.”

Services for Teens in an Adolescent Partial Hospitalization Program

A PHP includes the following approaches to teen treatment:

Group therapy: Daily group therapy sessions allow clients to build healthy relationships, support one another, and discuss the healing process together.

Psycho-educational sessions: In psychoeducation groups, clinical professionals educate teens on how the brain works. Hence, this allows them to positively change their thought processes.

Individual counseling: Expert clinicians and psychiatrists first perform a thorough clinical assessment. This determines each teen’s specific needs. As a result, a treatment team creates an individualized treatment plan that encompasses a variety of counseling and therapeutic modalities.

Family therapy sessions: When it comes to teen treatment, family involvement creates a greater likelihood that both the adolescent and the family will heal. As a result, teens can recover and succeed in treatment.

Research on PHP Treatment

More than 30 years of research supports the efficacy of PHP treatment. Hence, a large body of evidence shows that Partial Hospitalization Programs prevent future hospitalizations. Moreover, PHP attendance is proven to shorten hospital stays if they are necessary.

In one study, people treated at day hospitals had the same level of treatment satisfaction and quality of life as those cared for in inpatient units. In addition, they were no more likely to be readmitted to day or full-time hospitalization than clients discharged from inpatient units. Thus, researchers concluded that PHP treatment is often an effective and less restrictive alternative to inpatient admission.

A Representative Study of an Adolescent Partial Hospitalization Program

2014 study investigated treatment outcomes and patient perceptions in a Partial Hospitalization Program for adolescents with mental health concerns. A total of 35 teens (19 girls and 16 boys) participated. Results showed that the PHP program effectively decreased the severity of the teenagers’ symptoms. In addition, the program increased the relational health of the teen participants over time.

Moreover, data from the study showed that the teens believed that stays of three or more weeks in the PHP program provided time for them to become stable. In addition, the teens recognized that they had learned coping strategies. Furthermore, they had practiced these strategies in a safe context.

In summary, an adolescent Partial Hospitalization Program can have powerful positive results for teens. However, a PHP program is not be the right choice for every teen. In some cases, adolescents require inpatient treatment, residential treatment, or hospitalization. Hence, an assessment by a professional clinician is always the first step in addressing teen mental health.


Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Sept 2014. 

Counseling Outcome Research & Eval. 5(1): 3–16.